The people of Anambra State have elected Charles Chukwuma Soludo as their next governor, offering the topmost position to a man whose record of accomplishments, in academia and public policy, yielded the persuasion that he was the most auspicious candidate among his main challengers, including tainted Andy Uba and Valentine Ozigbo who has no public service experience.
In the election held on Saturday, with a supplementary poll on Tuesday, Mr Soludo, 61, of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) scored 122,229 votes to claim victory, finally achieving a goal he first set in 2009, 12 years ago, just after he left office as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
His closest rival, Mr Ozigbo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) scored 53,807 votes to emerge second, and Mr Uba, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate got a total of 43,285 votes to emerge the third position.
Born on July 28, 1960, Mr Soludo hails from Umueze Village, Isuofia in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State. Messrs Soludo, Ozigbo and Uba are from the same local government.
Top of the class
Mr Soludo graduated with a first-class degree in Economics in 1984 from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), one of Nigeria’s preeminent and first-generation universities, where he also studied and researched for his master’s and doctoral degrees.
Not only did he obtain first-class honours, but he was also the top-of-the-class graduate throughout his studies up to the doctoral level in 1989 when he won the Vice-Chancellor’s prize for the best graduating PhD student.
Mr Soludo honed his research capacities at some of the best institutions in the world, gaining a cumulative four years of post-doctoral scholarship in the United States, Ethiopia, and the United Kingdom. Between 1991 and 1992, he was a Visiting Fellow at The Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C.; and between 1992 and 1993, Research Fellow at the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Addis Ababa.
In addition, he was a Visiting Scholar at the International Monetary Fund, Washington, D.C. in 1994; and later the University of Oxford, 1994 and 1997; the Smuts Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge, 1996-1997, and a scholar at the University of Warwick, 1997.
In 1998, UNN appointed Mr Soludo Professor of Economics, a remarkable achievement for the scholar, who was then 38. “I became everything in my 30s…I became a professor in my 30s,” Mr Soludo boasted during the Anambra governorship debate.
As he says in his CV obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Soludo travelled to 46 countries as an itinerant scholar and consultant to several multilateral finance and development institutions, including the World Bank, African Development Bank, International Monetary Fund, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the European Union, among others.
In July 2003, Mr Soludo made a foray into the government with an appointment as the Chief Economic Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo. And in the month that followed, he got an additional responsibility as the Chief Executive and Deputy Chairman of the National Planning Commission, initiating the process that birthed the National Bureau of Statistics.
In May 2004, Mr Obasanjo appointed Mr Soludo to the CBN as the governor, which Mr Uba would claim he made possible. “My brother brought you to me,” said Mr Uba, during the governorship debate. Mr Uba was at the time of Mr Soludo’s CBN appointment a close aide to Mr Obasanjo. But Mr Soludo dismissed his rival’s claim.
It was as the CBN governor that Mr Soludo made his most consequential public policy effort; the financial sector reforms, that included a regime of consolidation of 89 banks to 25 with a stronger capital base. Mr Soludo has been praised for helping to strengthen and institutionalise banking in Nigeria.
However, towards the end of his five-year tenure at the CBN, amid the global economic meltdown of 2008, many in the government and organised private sector had started expressing doubts about the standing of Nigerian banks contrary to Mr Soludo’s assurances. As described by former presidential spokesperson, Olusegun Adeniyi, in his book, Power Politics and Death, Mr Soludo’s critics, including governors, believed he was “either not aware of the situation in the banks or was deliberately putting a sheen on their malaise.”
Mr Soludo could not secure a second term. Late President Umaru Yar’Adua replaced him on June 1 with Lamido Sanusi, with a banking and risk management background, unlike Mr Soludo, an economist. As it turned out, the examination of the banks under Mr Sanusi validated the fears Mr Soludo’s critics had expressed: some of the banks were on a “life support,” causing fear of financial sector instability, Mr Adesegun said in his book.
Nevertheless, Mr Soludo’s accomplishments at the apex bank were solid and remain rarely matched. In addition to the consolidation of the banks, he helped grow the external reserve from $10 billion to an all-time high of $62 billion and inflationary pressure was low, at a time single digit for 24 consecutive months. He was a key figure in the macro-economic high scores attained by the Obasanjo administration.
Politics: from CBN to power in Anambra
By 2009, Anambra State still offered the iconic example of criminal politics phenomenon, partly a legacy of Chris Uba, the notorious brother of Mr Uba, the defeated APC candidate in the last election. It was in that context that Mr Soludo, in September 2009, announced his intention to run for the governorship election of February 2010.
Though then a political greenhorn, coming from the academia and central banking to operate in a tumultuous political terrain, Mr Soludo clinched the PDP ticket. He was able to retain the ticket despite initial resistance from top members of the party citing no transparency in his nomination. He, however, lost the election to Peter Obi, then of APGA. Mr Obi now leads PDP in Anambra.
As the next election season was approaching, Mr Soludo switched from PDP to APGA in preparation for the 2014 election in the state. He did not compete in the APGA primaries as he was disqualified alongside a few other aspirants, paving the way for the incumbent governor, Willy Obiano, to clinch the APGA ticket and succeed Mr Obi.
Mr Soludo supported Mr Obiano’s re-election in 2017. In return, Mr Obiano backed Mr Soludo to win Saturday’s election.
Mr Soludo’s story is an example of resilience, passion and persistence.
In the campaigns, Mr Soludo, who has repeatedly expressed a commitment to a united Nigeria, said he would engage with separatist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), to address tensions and insecurity in the state. He also promised to improve infrastructure, especially in the area of roads, and stimulate the economy to create jobs.
With his victory in the election, Mr Soludo will be inaugurated in March 2022 as the governor of Anambra State to succeed Mr Obiano.
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